Top 10 Reasons to Visit Fort Walton Beach, Florida
Nestled along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, Fort Walton Beach is a vibrant gem on the Emerald Coast. Known for its stunning beaches, laid-back vibe and exciting attractions, Fort Walton Beach on Okaloosa Island offers a distinctive experience that sets it apart from nearby areas as a must-visit destination. If you’re trying to decide which part of the Emerald Coast to visit, Fort Walton Beach stands out from Destin and other communities for a variety of reasons. Discover the top reasons visitors love Fort Walton Beach for a relaxing coastal getaway below!
1. Beautiful Beaches
Fort Walton Beach has amazing white sand beaches stretching along Okaloosa Island, distinguishing itself from nearby Destin with an emphasis on tranquility and a peaceful, nature-focused setting. The main beach next to the Island Pier and The Boardwalk is centrally located, with shopping, dining, entertainment, and beach amenities. The western end of town has 7 beach access points with boardwalks and lifeguards, while there are several beaches clustered around the eastern edge of the island which are a bit harder to get to and therefore less crowded.
2. Outdoor Activities
There are a range of outdoor activities in Fort Walton Beach to take advantage of the spectacular surroundings, and being slightly less touristy than Destin means a more intimate experience for visitors. Water sports like parasailing, jet skiing, paddle boarding, and snorkeling are always popular activities to enjoy the crystal clear waters of the Gulf. Deep sea fishing charters and dolphin watching tours are also great options to get out on the water. Those who want to stay on solid ground may enjoy the nature trails of Fort Walton Beach at Patriot’s Trail and Glenwood Park.
3. A Central Gathering Place
Fort Walton Beach has a lively central activity hub at The Boardwalk, a beachside complex with shopping, dining and entertainment. This vibrant area not only offers beach amenities and outfitters, but also hosts weekly pirate shows and fireworks, making it a perfect spot to enjoy an afternoon on the sand. This bustling area has a small town feel, providing a welcome retreat from the more commercialized areas of neighboring Destin.
4. Excellent Pier Fishing
The Island Pier in Fort Walton Beach is the ideal place for anglers of any level to cast their lines. Extending over 1,200 feet into the Gulf of Mexico, this pier is the best spot for pier fishing in the Emerald Coast. Cast a line for tarpon, mackerel, bonito and black fin tuna, and take a break at the snack bar to watch the local dolphins in their natural habitat.
With a variety of accommodations and a slower pace, Fort Walton Beach tends to be more affordable than Destin, while offering the same level of beach access and activities. Fort Walton Beach vacation rentals provide a quieter and less developed setting, perfect for visitors seeking a relaxed experience.
6. Fewer Crowds
While Destin is often packed with tourists, Fort Walton Beach offers a more serene and relaxed atmosphere. The city’s commitment to preserving its natural beauty and limiting large-scale developments ensures that visitors can savor their beach experience without the overwhelming crowds. This small town feel makes Fort Walton Beach feel like a place where you can settle in and unwind on your vacation.
7. A Family-Friendly Town
Fort Walton Beach prides itself on providing a fun atmosphere with plenty of activities for all ages. Since shops, restaurants and entertainment are conveniently located next to the beach, this area makes it easy for families to balance exciting activities and relaxing family time while on vacation. Nearby attractions like Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone and the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park offer thrilling family fun and interactive wildlife encounters in a central location.
8. Charming Downtown Area
Downtown Fort Walton Beach is filled with character. Quaint boutiques, unique art galleries, and a range of dining options create a cozy and inviting ambiance, providing a stark contrast to the bustling commercial scene of Destin. Throughout the year, the downtown area hosts street fairs, art exhibitions, live music performances, and cultural celebrations, offering visitors many opportunities to interact with the local community.
9. Rich History
The Fort Walton Beach area was settled by Native Americans over 12,000 years ago and visitors can dive into that deep history at the Indian Temple Mound Museum and Heritage Park. Fort Walton Beach also has a strong military heritage, which is on full display at the Air Force Armament Museum, located adjacent to Eglin Air Force Base.
10. Cultural Activities
There are a variety of cultural activities to explore in Fort Walton Beach. The Heritage Park and Cultural Center hosts exhibits about the history of the area, from early Native American settlements through the 1950s. The hands-on exhibits focused on Florida wildlife at the Emerald Coast Science Center are a delightful way for kids to spend an afternoon.
Fort Walton Beach stands out as an incredible destination for those seeking a more laid-back and less commercialized coastal vacation compared to its neighbor Destin. The tranquil beaches and vibrant culture of Fort Walton Beach capture the essence of the Emerald Coast and offer a memorable vacation experience. Explore our Fort Walton Beach vacation rentals to start planning your getaway!
Legacy Vacation Rentals
1111 Santa Rosa Blvd | Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548 | ph: 850-244-4000
Hours of Operation
Reservations: 24/7 365 | Main Office: 10am – 6pm CST 7 Days a Week